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Top Places to See In and Around Beijing

Updated on December 13, 2013

Wangfujing Street, Beijing

History, Geography, Climate, Economy and Art

History

The history of Beijing dates back to the time when the traces of early humans were found in caves of Dragon Bone Hill. Archaeologists have found Neolithic settlements in Wangfujing which is in downtown Beijing. Ji was the first walled city in Beijing. On 1st October 1949, the creation of People’s Republic of China was born, and Beijing became the capital city. Beijing has been the location of many significant events.

Geography

Beijing is at the northern tip of the triangular North China Plain. There are mountains to the north, northwest and west. The city spreads out in concentric ring roads. Chang’an Avenue cuts between Tiananmen and the Square, and this is the city’s main east-west axis.

Climate

Beijing has a humid continental climate. The summers are hot and humid. The winters are cold, windy and dry. Beijing does sees some snow. In spring one can expect sandstorms along with warm, dry conditions. A little rain is seen in autumn. April to June are the flowering months.

Economy

In China, the most developed city is Beijing. It has tertiary industries. Beijing’s real estate and automobile sectors are booming. Wheat and maize are its main agricultural crops. Beijing is developing at a rapid pace.

Art

Beijing’s lacquer ware work is well-known for its intrinsic patterns, and images carved on it with lacquer and engraved with gold. Metal-working is an art specialty in Beijing. It is the traditional craft in China known as cloisonné.

Great Wall of China

Tourist Places

Forbidden City
This city is Beijing’s historical heart. Its palace compound was home to the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors and has been the political center of the Chinese government. It is listed by UNESCO, for it has the largest collection of ancient wooden structures in the world. It is a rectangular city and is surrounded by high walls. There are imperial gardens around it. Its design reflects and symbolizes the majesty of Imperial power. The emperor’s color is yellow and thus all the roofs of the Forbidden City have yellow glazed tiles. The Forbidden City has been depicted in films and television series and has served as a scene to many works of fiction.

Tiananmen Square
This square lies in the center of Beijing, China. The square separates it from the Forbidden City. It is located to the north of the city. It is the world’s third largest square. The square is easily accessible by public transport. It has Monument to the people’s Heroes. You will also find Mayo’s Mausoleum on Tiananmen Square. A number of security cameras are installed at the square. It lies between two ancient massive gates. The square has been the site of many important events. It is heavily guarded and monitored.

Great Wall of China
This great wall is also known as the “Long Wall of 10,000 Li” in China. It became a World Heritage Site in 1987. Thousands of tourists visit the Great Wall of China. It is about 80km from Beijing. The wall is constructed of stone, brick, tempered earth, wood and other materials. Near the inner surface of the walls barracks, armories and stables were built. The wall is on the northern border from east to west and serves as China’s military defense. The great wall is about 20,000km. It was built in different historical periods. On its northern side, a cable car and other tourist amenities are built.

Great Hall of the People
This hall is located at the western edge of Tiananmen Square. It was opened in September 1959. Its designer was Zhang Bo. The hall has central, northern and southern sections. The great auditorium therein is decorated with lights and red star in the center of the ceiling. Nearby, a design a water waves represents the people.

National Museum of China
This museum is to the eastern side of Tiananmen Square. The museum educates the visitors about the art and history of China. The front of the museum has at its center 11 square pillars. You will see a number of rare artifacts in the museum. It has the heaviest piece of ancient bronze ware in the world from the Shang Dynasty. A Hang Dynasty jade burial suit is also there at this museum. This suit is laced with gold threads.

Summer Palace
This palace is at the western part of the Forbidden City along with the Old Summer Palace. It has gardens, lakes and palaces. The Longevity Hill and the Kunming Lake dominate this palace. The hill is about 60mts high. The front side of it has halls and pavilions. The back hill is full of natural beauty. The lake here is man-made. UNESCO added the Summer Palace on the World Heritage list in 1998 December. The gardens around are a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. It serves as a recreational park and is a popular destination for tourists.

Temples
Temple of Heaven is a complex of religious buildings. It is located at the southeastern part of central Beijing. It was constructed by Yongle Emperor between 1406 and 1420. It features in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The temple tells the visitor that it is of great importance for the evolution of one of the world’s great civilizations. It has a symbolic layout and design. Its surroundings have a popular park. The Yongle Emperor also built the Temple of Sun, Temple of Earth and Temple of Moon.
In Beijing, you will find other temples like Pagoda of Tianning Temple, Confucius Temple, Pagoda of Cishou Temple, White Cloud Temple etc.

The Bridge
This bridge is in the form of eight Chinese li. There is a canal over the bridge which is connected to the Summer Palace. Once a small palace and temple stood here. It is a 17th century stone bridge. The other two are Logus Bridge of 12th century and Jade Belt Bridge of the 18th century.

Fragrant Hills
These hills attract tourists to its park, which lies at the foothills of the Western Mountain in the Haiclian District northwest of Beijing. The park has plenty of pine-cypress trees. The hills are full of smoke trees, persimmon trees and maple trees. The highest peak is Xiangulu Feng at 1,827ft. It has two large stones at the top. These resemble incense burners. The park was built in 1186. It turns fiery in autumn with the mountain side being covered with red smoke tree leaves. It is a feast for the eyes to watch this spectacular beauty. Cable cars run through the park. The park has the north route and the south route. Outside the north gate, you will find the Temple of Azure Clouds.

Beijing Botanical Garden
This beautiful garden boasts of 6,000 species of plants. It includes a great variety of trees, bushes and flowers. It also has a large peony garden. The garden is situated in the northwestern outskirts of Beijing. There is a Chinese herbal garden here, and greenhouses for tropical and subtropical plants. There are a number of Buddhist temples within the garden. The highlight of this garden is the hot house exhibition.

Beijing Zoo
This is a zoological park with lakes within it. The zoo has a rare collection of land and marine animals. It sees an influx of visitors. The zoo has gardens, dense groves of trees, meadows, rivers, streams, lotus pools and hills. It is a center of zoological research. Visitors to the zoo can also view and explore its many Qing-era buildings. The aquarium is also a part of the zoo. This is the biggest aquarium in China. The sea lions and dolphins perform shows to entertain the visitors.
The tourists can go to the Beijing Planetarium, Purple Bamboo Park, Beijing Exhibition Center and also the Moscow Restaurant. These are all the nearby attractions close to the Beijing Zoo.

Shanghai

Excursions

Harbin
It’s here in Harbin that the ice festival takes place in Zhaolin Park. Here, one can witness ice carving contest and night lighting. Do visit Ice and Snow World on the Sun Island. It is beautifully lit up in the evening. Stroll around Houhai Lake or Nanluoguxing and enjoy the old city.

Suzhou
This is a prosperous city in China. Here, there are a number of pagodas and temples. The town of Suzhou is known for its canals and gardens. You can reach Suzhou from Shanghai in about 25 minutes by a high speed train.

Water towns
You will find these near Suzhou. Each town has its own special feature and characteristic. The cobbled streets invite you for a walk down them. You can take a boat ride, peep into shops and have food in a restaurant and enjoy a day long trip. You can make a trip to these towns as a stopover between Shanghai and Suzhou.

Shanghai
This is a metropolitan city and the largest one in China. The people here are liberal and modern. Summer and winter temperatures are in extremes here. The towns of Tonngli and Zhujiazhao are the most renowned ones near Shanghai. As you go ahead, one of China’s sacred peaks the Yellow Mountain is seen. There are a number of flights from Shanghai to Shenzhen.

Hangzhou
It has a famous West Lake and a lot of natural scenery. Marco Polo is said to have called Hangzhou “beyond dispute the finest and the noblest in the world”. It is an important city economically. It takes 2 to 3 hours to reach here from Shanghai.

Yangtze River Cruise
Many travelers take a cruise down the Yangtze River. You laze and walk around on the deck viewing the beauty of nature as the ship sails along. There are many excursions included along with the cruise. A night cruise show is also there for your entertainment.

Longsheng Rice Terraces
Visit the villages of Tiantouzhai and Ping’an. They are located near Guilin. You can take a hike from Dazhal. It takes about 45 minutes to reach Tiantouzhai. It is a well-marked hike and an easy one. An overnight stay will give you a chance to watch the sunrise over the lovely rice terraces. An evening hike lets you witness the sunset. There are the guest houses, many inns and restaurants in this village. It’s a purely rural experience.
Ping’an is more in the interior as compared to Tiantouzhai. It takes about 5 hours to walk or hike it out to reach here. It’s a different kind of experience watching the cascading rice terraces which seem endless. When the terraces are filled with water in the spring, they sparkle like diamonds. A silvery frost covers them in winter.

Shangri-La
Shangri-La is like an off the beaten track experience for the traveler. It is a county. Tibetans are its inhabitants. It lies at an altitude of 9,843ft. Many things attract the traveler to Shangri-La. It has wildlife, deep gorges, rivers and outstanding snow-capped mountains.

Duke Zone
Duke zone is an old town center having its distinct culture. A number of places can be visited from here like Songzanlin Monastery, White Water Terraces, Meili, Snow Mountains and Bitahai Lake. June to September is the best time to visit its greens with abundant wildlife, though it is in these months that the rainfall is 70%. Snowfall isolates Duke zone.

Tiger Leaping Gorge
It is a canyon on the Golden Sands or Jinsha River. It is about 9 miles in length. If you visit it by road, you can view the rapids or take a hike off to the gorge.

Miscellaneous Information

The tourists can shop in Beijing for Ivory Carvings, Cloisonné, Jade and Lacquer handicrafts. One can also buy curious, silk pearls, artificial flowers and snuff bottle with pictures inside. Fruit candies and confectioneries too can be picked up.
The dining in Beijing has cuisines from different cultures. The choices are unlimited. Seafood is liked for its freshness and special flavor. Beijing has its own local style of cooking. The best known dish is Peking Roast Duck.
Beijing has a number of hotels of all grades for the traveler.
Beijing International Airport is the second busiest in the world. Most of the international flights that come in from cities across the globe arrive and depart from Terminal 3. Exchange your currency at the airport from the Bank of China. Chinese money is referred to as the Chinese Dollar.
A 72 hour visa free entry is given by Beijing and Shanghai to the citizens of select countries. Check this facility before you leave your home country, or else take a 30 days visa that is normally given to a tourist.
Be equipped with your medical insurance for your trip. China has good medical facilities, but for a tourist they are pricey. All payments through credit cards will be charged in Chinese Dollar. Check before for the hidden charges when using a credit card.
Once in Beijing, you can avail of the facility of City Tours, Custom Tours, or Specialty Tours. Book on them beforehand.

A Trip to Beijing

Map of Beijing

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